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Kokori-Okpara Relations in the past - Niger-Delta -Part 1

BY: John Chris | Category: Others | Post Date: 2008-07-05

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Background to the Study

It is an established fact, that -relations between states or human groupings are as complex as they are between idealistic -particulars-

1. This is because they are products of intricately linked political economic, socio-cultural and attitudinal forces. These forces are dynamic. In other words, they change with time and situation. They are equally interdependent. They operate concurrently, but usually at different qualitative levels. For instance, two states or -group of peoples- at war can continue to allow commerce between them. So also socio-cultural transactions can continue in spite of hostilities on the political level.

2 Also, inter-group, intra-group and extra-group relations within any given nation -are interconnected and influence and even sometimes determine the development of one another-

3. Hence, invariably national peace, unity and development are dictated and directed by the nature of relations at each level of relationships.

It is discernible from the above, how crucial and important is the subject of inter-group relations. Yet, scholarly attention on the subject so far seems to be on a limited level and restricted to certain areas of the Nigerian Society. It is also germane to note that, without knowledge of the factors and dynamics, which determined relations between as many groups as possible to study in the Nigeria Society, any macro study of group relations in Nigeria would lack facts. Similarly any generalization on the nature of pre-colonial inter-group relations among the diverse groups would be irredeemably wrong. It is in this connection, Obaro Ikime has rightly pointed out that, in seeking solution to some of our problems, -the historian has a very real and urgent role to play- via providing a profounder understanding of the dynamics which have determined actions and reactions of the different ethnic groups in Nigeria.

4. Against this backdrop, this study focuses on an aspect of relation, namely, that which existed between village groups of the same ethnic extraction. That is, inter-communal relations. It is worthy of note here that, such relations have continuously shaped and re-shaped relations at other levels, such as inter-ethnic or extra-group relations. The choice of Okpara and Kokori relations for this research work is informed partly by the fact that few literature is available on this area of Nigerian history.

The relations that flourished between the two groups provide us with two very salient themes. The theme of land as the major source of conflicts between groups and the theme of culture as instrument of forging unity among people. The fiercest dispute that arose between Okpara and Kokori in the pre-colonial era was as a result of wrangle over land ownership.

Statement of the Problem
Research into the subject matter of inter-group, relations is conceived so as to help us appreciate the dynamics operative in groups' relations. As Obaro Ikime rightly points out, inter-group relations (including inter-group tensions and wars) are a function of history.

5. Although there have been studies of some groups relations such as those of the ones that lived in West Niger, Oyo-Yoruba and Ilorin as well as Itsekiri-Urhobo, the experience of Agbon groups in question of the phenomenon of relations, has not been properly studied as will be presented by this research work. It therefore follows that, the peculiarity of certain factors, operative in groups relations which manifested in these groups relations are yet to be brought to the lime-light of understanding. This study tackles that task.
This research work is also capable of deepening our understanding of the Urhobo groups who had been variously described by some European colonial officers and writers -as disunited- groups, -small-, living -along Ethiope and West Bank of Warri river- and without political organisation.

6. Furthermore, no scholarly historical work has been carried out on the nature of relations that existed between Okpara and Kokori in the pre-colonial period, so that many are still oblivious of the significance and relevance of such relations for Nigeria and Nigerian history. Where information about Okpara and kokori relations exist they are either mere passing references or scattered ideas not properly organized for understanding.

Aims / Objectives of the Study

In view of the above, this research work is aimed at reassessing the traditions of origin of the Urhobos, particularly as they relate to the Agbon-Urhobo groups of Okpara and Kokori, so as to establish their origins.

Secondly, this study is aimed at answering the question of the nature of relations that flourished between the Okpara and Kokori peoples in the pre-colonial period. In that process, attention shall be given to the factors, which prompted and propelled such relationships. Also the significance and relevance of these relations for our society shall not be overlooked.
Significance of the Study

The significance of this historical study lies in the fact that is capable of deepening our understanding of the Urhobo groups who have been variously described by some European colonial officers and writers as -disunited- groups, -shy- -small- living -along Ethiope and West Bank of Warri river-

It is hoped that this research work will contribute largely to our understanding or awareness of the problems and possibilities encountered by different groups in their relations. This understanding can arm us and help us provide adequately for future eventualities in groups relations within our larger society.

Again it can enhance policy makers' understanding of the propensity and complexity of organization of the people they formulate policies for.

Moreover, eventhough this research work is not meant to be propaganda, it can forge unity and peaceful coexistence among the people whose history is being reviewed, and by extension help other groups appreciate the importance and implications of relations.

Finally this work is capable of stimulating interests of future researcher in this area of Urhobo history and more importantly serve as a fountain of data for social scientist who wish to draw materials from the reservoir of history.

Review of Related Literature

A handful of literature is available on Kokori and Okpara histories. However, relatively much has been written about Urhobo general history, in which references have been made to the Agbon groups of Kokori and Okpara.

For instance, in Onigu Otite's book, The Urhobo People, he focuses attention on the origins and socio-political organisation of the Urhobo groups of Okpara and Kokori. He describes the government of the people as a gerontocratic type in which the eldest person assumed the mantle of authority. Furthermore, he traces the origin of the Agbon people to a migration of a man called Ukonorhoro from Udo in Bini, who later gave birth to Agbon in Irri. Agbon migrated form Irri with his children, and after his sojourn in several places, finally got to -Otorho-Agbon-, where he settled.

7. The work of a prominent Urhobo chief, M. P. Okumagba however shows that Urhobo was originally known as -Urhoho-. He was one of Ogiso's war chiefs who left Benin after 1052 A. D. He claims that this great man got to a place called -Erhowa- in Ase country where he settled. From this place, according to him, Agbon - one of the man's descendants moved and settled in Otorho-Agbon, after a stay in other places on their way. He says that, Agbon gave birth to four sons. Okumagba as well attempts a discussion of the socio-political and cultural organizations of the various Urhobo groups. He opined that the Urhobo ancient judicial system had very little resemblance to that of the British Privy Council and Supreme Court System.

8. Onajite Adjara and Andy Omokri, have as well studied the origin, socio-cultural and political aspects of the Okpara and Kokori people's histories, in their book, Urhobo Kingdoms, Political and Social Systems. In it they trace the origin of the Okpara and Kokori peoples to migrations from Benin with their progenitor.

9. Ogbobine's The Urhobo People and their Land Tenure, is another contribution to the written sources available on Okpara and Kokori history. The work presents us with the Urhobo groups' system of Land Ownership. Chapter two of the book in which Ogbobine studies the Urhobo clans in turns, brings to our knowledge the origin of Okpara and Kokori people, their Socio-Political and religious organizations and institutions

10. Obaro Ikime has equally carried out research into the history of the Urhobo groups, published in different articles and in different textbooks. In one of such books, Itsekiri-Urhobo Relations and the European Presence from 1884 - 1936,he highlights how the Urhobo groups of Okpara evolved as a group. He points out, that the Urhobos were better known as palm oil and palm kernel producers. He asserts that although Agbon claims Benin origin, they actually moved from Irri in Uzere clan. This assumption may have been informed by the sojourning of Agbon people in Irri before migrating to Tokori near Uhwerun from where they came to Isiokolo Ikime proceeds to study the socio-political organisation of the people and shows that they met at Isiokolo, the clan centre of Okpara to take major decision such as that relating to war. This thought varies from Odje's account, which never makes reference to prior meeting at -Isiokolo, the clan centre of Okpara before declaring war.

11. In another work published in the book, Groundwork of Nigeria History, Obaro Ikime explores the socio-political organsition of the Urhobos and concluded that, they were organized in gerontocratic form of administration.

12. Another stride in document ....tion of the history of the Agbon groups in question could be found in Peter P. Ekeh's article, -In search of Ediod Cultural History- Ekeh in this work asserts that -any study of Urhobo history and cultural that belittles the huge contributions from Isoko will do so at its own peril-. He as well makes passing references to aspects of Kokori,and Okpara history; their origin which he traces under the umbrella of Agbon migration.

13. -A profile of Agbon-, an article written by Imo Joe Otite, and published by Urhobo Historical Society presents us with the geographical location of Agbon people, the traditions of their migrations a list of the sub-clans in their order of seniority and established that Ovu inland is an offshoot of Okpara inland

14. S. J. Odje, has rather made the most unstinting and definite contribution to the history of the Urhobo groups of Kokori, although his work is not as scholarly as the others reviewed above. In the book, Kokori People, Ancient and Modern, Odje relates the origin, migration, and socio-political practices of the Kokori people. Also in his effort to trace the origin of Kokori, he makes reference to Okpara's origin which says fraternal relations with Kokori. Odje agrees with Otite on the point that Agbon's children dispersed from Isiokolo as a result of disagreements between them

15. -Urhobo Information- an online article, informs us that Urhobo oral history is contradictory for -it claims that their origins are related to those of Bini people-, whereas other connections are made to the Igbo, Benin and Ijo. This account according to the article appears doubtful because the three aforementioned ethnic groups have different cultural systems.

16. It is discernible that, eventhough relatively much has been written about the Urhobo groups of Okpara and Kokori, the aspect or subject-matter of their relations in the pre-colonial period has not received its fair share of scholarly attention. What we find on available literature is scanty information or mere passing references to Okpara-Kokori relations in the pre-colonial period. Besides, the available literatures are begging for reconciliation in respect of their varied traditions of origins and their socio-political organizations.
Scope of the Study
This research covers the history of relations between Okpara and Kokori in the pre-colonial era. The manner of relations obtainable in this period of Nigerian history had changed with the advent of colonial rule because of certain factors, which changed with the activities of the Europeans in Urhobo land and Nigeria in general. Put difficulty, our study will begin from the origins of the two sub-clans and end in 1900. Where necessary, the place of the villages and settlements, which evolved from the two sub-clans, in their relations, will be highlighted. And products of inter-group relations, political, and socio-cultural contacts will be our major focus.
Research Methodology
The work uses primary sources more than secondary sources to achieve its aims and objectives. Historical documents on this subject matter are inadequate, but facts about it abound in the traditions of the people and in direct evidence. The primary sources employed include basically oral data. On the other hand, secondary sources range from textbooks, internet sources to others like archival documents.
To enable us trace the origins of Kokori-Okpara relations, the narrative and analytical approaches are employed.

Limitations of Study
This researcher had to contend with the factors of finance, time and sources in this research. The required time for the submission of this work and inadequate written sources on the subject-matter coupled with finance needed to acquire materials, were formidable bulwarks against the depth of this work. Oral data collected through oral interview was used to supplement available written sources.

1. R. O. Lasis, -Oyo-Yoruba and Ilorin Relations in the 19th Century- in G. O. Oguntonmisin and S. Ademola Ajayi (eds.) Readings in Nigeria History and Culture, (Ibadan: Hope Publications, 2002), P. 254
2. Lasisi, P. 254
3. J. G. Nkem Oyekpe, -Conflict and Co-operation Among West Niger Igbo Communities before 1900- in Oguntomisim and Ademola (eds), P. 296.
4. Obaro Ikime, Niger Delta Rivalry: Itsekiri-Urhobo Relations and European Presence 1884-1936, (London: Longman, 1969), P. xvii
5. Oyekpe, p. 299
6. Ikime, p. 5
7. Onigu Otite, -Agbon- in Onigu Otite (ed) The Urhobo People, (Ibadan: Heimanann, 1982), Pp. 198-199.
8. M. P. Okumagba, A Short History of Urhobo, (np:kris and pat, nd) p. 23 - 124.
9. Onajite Igere Adara and Omokri Andy, Urhobo Kingdoms, Political and Social Systems (Nigeria: Textflow, 1997), pp 72-77
10. R. A. I. Ogbobine, The Urhobo People and their Land Tenure, (np:np,1977),pp. 40-44.
11. Ikime, Pp. 1 -19
12. Obaro Ikime, -The People and Kingdoms of the Delta Province- in Obaro Ikime (ed), Groundwork of Nigerian History, (Ibadan: Heinamann Educational Books, 1980),pp. 90-101.
13 P. peter Ekeh, -In Search of Edoid Cultural History- 11 July, 1999, http://www.waado.org/organisation/UHS/Debates/UrhoboBeninRelation/Ekeh-Rejionder.html, 6 March 2005.
14. Imo Joe Otite, -A Profile of Agbon, Major Urhobo Cultural Unit-, http-//www.waado.org/Cultural/Units/Agbon/Agbon-Profile/ImoOtite.html, 6 March 2005.
15. S.J. Odje, Kokori People, Ancient and Modern, (Nigeria: np, 1995), p 7.
16. -Urhobo Information-, http://www.ethnonet-africa.org/data/Niger/bibliography.html, 6 March 2005.

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